You will be redirected back to your article in seconds
Back to IndieWire

Today in History… Malcolm X Was Assassinated – Watch Comprehensive Documentary Portrait, ‘Malcolm X: Make It Plain’

Today in History... Malcolm X Was Assassinated - Watch Comprehensive Documentary Portrait, 'Malcolm X: Make It Plain'

A birth and a death… yesterday in history, February 20th, 1927, Sidney Poitier was born (read my piece on that here); Today in history… February 21st, 1965, Malcolm Little/Malcolm X/El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz was assassinated in New York City, while addressing his Pan-Africanist Organization of Afro-American Unity (the OAAU, which he founded about a year earlier), at the Audubon Ballroom in Washington Heights.

He was just 39 years old.

Of course, I’m sure we all know of Spike Lee’s 1992 epic film based on the life of the man – a film that rests among the nation’s treasures in the world’s largest archive of film, TV and sound recordings, after being inducted for preservation in the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress in 2011.

As is often the case every year, there are typically events around the country, maybe even in your city, scheduled in honor of his death, so feel free to share in the comments section below, if you’re involved in any and would like to inform others. In past years, the Brecht Forum here in NYC has screened Orlando Bagwell’s 2 1/2 hour 1994 documentary, “Malcolm X: Make It Plain,” narrated by Alfre Woodard – a film that paints a comprehensive portrait of Malcolm X – hustler, visionary, husband and father, dynamic orator and, after spending time in prison, Minister Malcolm, the fiery, eloquent spokesman for the Nation of Islam; and finally as El Hajj Malik El Shabazz, internationally recognized leader and advocate for oppressed peoples – loved and despised, revered and feared… until he was assassinated at 39.

Considered a significant work on Malcolm X’s compelling story, the roughly 2 1/2 hour film unfolds via the memories of people who had close personal and working relationships with him: prominent figures such as Maya Angelou, Ossie Davis, John Henrik Clarke, Sonia Sanchez, Peter Bailey, Yuri Kochiyama, Gordon Parks, and Alex Haley; Nation of Islam associates, and family members, including his wife, Betty Shabazz, and his oldest daughter, Attallah Shabazz. Also included is extensive archival footage of Malcolm X, speaking in his own words, at meetings and rallies, and in media interviews. 

Produced and directed by Bagwell, the entire documentary is on YouTube; so, on this day, I invite you to watch it right here (below), especially if you haven’t already.

This Article is related to: Features and tagged


Ron Ruggieri

In the last year of his life Malcolm X made a connection between racism and capitalism and imperialism. It now makes sense that younger black Americans are beginning to pay attention to the democratic socialist message of Bernie Sanders and other more " independent " socialists.


Most of us blacks really thought we were free, without being aware that in our subconscious all those chains we thought had been struck off were still there. And there was many was were… what really motivated us was the desire to be loved by the white man. Malcolm meant to lance that sense of inferiority. He knew it would be painful, people would kill you because of it but he dared to take that risk. He was saying something over and above that of any other leader of that day. While the others were begging for entry into the house of their oppressor, he was telling you to build your own house" – Ossie Davis RIP. YES! I agree Joy Shannon, this film is powerful!!! More importantly, as Malcolm’s messages relate to today’s environment, particularly, this blogs focus on blacks in the film industry, I am reminded of the cry "Oscarstillsowhite". I wander as I wonder, what have we learned in the 50 years since his passing? Are some of us still burdened by the desire to be loved by the white man? Hmmmmm, I wonder if Don Cheadle has seen this documentary? I do know however, this doc should be required viewing for all blacks from all walks of life. There’s much to learn about ourselves.


I distinctly remember watching this documentary on PBS. Unforgettable.

Joy Shannon


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *